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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: Taliban attack in Pakistan

Developing overnight, from the AP: "Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing 126 people, officials said, in the worst attack to hit the country in years. The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the army public school, which has children and teenagers in grades 1-10. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault and rushed to Peshawar to show his support for the victims."

From the New York Times: "Democrats would like some credit for the run of good economic news. Yet the better those reports are, the more divided the party has become over how — even whether — to take any. In one camp are Democrats who argue that if they do not take some credit, they will continue to receive little. Others counter that boasting would backfire, infuriating millions of Americans who do not see the economy improving for them or their children."

In economic news: "The battered ruble plunged to a new record low against the dollar again Tuesday, as investors grew convinced that the Russian central bank’s surprise move overnight to jack up interest rates to 17% wouldn’t be enough to alleviate the pressure on the currency from falling oil prices and western sanctions."

CONGRESS: Obama surgeon general nominee gets confirmed

The Senate finally confirmed Surgeon General nominee Vivek Murthy -- over the objections of the National Rifle Association.

The upper chamber may confirm up to 88 federal judges this year -- the highest of any administration in twenty years.

The Senate should wrap up for the year by midweek, reports The Hill.

David Vitter of Louisiana is pledging to try to stonewall Obama's nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch.

The Washington Post editorial board: "Spending bill is a modest achievement, but at least Congress got the job done"

OFF TO THE RACES: Dems debate where to go after 2014 defeats

One of us(!) wrote yesterday: "A month after their drubbing in the midterm elections, Democrats and liberal commentators have debated the path the party should take as it heads into the 2016 presidential contest. Should it craft a more populist (and anti-Wall Street) position? Should it focus more on white working-class voters, or double down on President Barack Obama's base of young and minority voters? Should the party write off the Deep South? Or should it change little - because the 2016 map and electorate are much more favorable than they were in 2014?"

Jeb Bush, yesterday in a winter commencement in South Carolina: ""We're seeing more and more that people often model their lives on their parents. Their parents went to college, so do they. If their parents married late, so do they...And I can tell you from personal experience, if your parents worked in politics, well, you know the rest."

Martin O’Malley will likely push a presidential announcement to the spring, writes the Washington Post.

Ted Cruz is trying to soothe concerns of big GOP donors who aren’t sure about his brash style, the National Journal writes.

The State in South Carolina: "His father, George H.W. Bush, spoke at a USC commencement when he was president in 1990. His brother, George W. Bush, spoke to graduates as president in 2003."

The Washington Post looks at the Draft Warren movement. "By all indications, progressive groups genuinely believe there is at least a chance of coaxing Warren into the race under certain circumstances. However, whether or not that ultimately happens, they have an interest in keeping up this push for another reason: Anything that boosts Warren’s visibility might also boost the potential power and influence that Warren may be able to exert within Congress — and over the Democratic Party in general — as their chosen vehicle for progressive policy ideas. That might boost the groups’ own influence over the debate."

The Wall Street Journal looks at how GOP governors are trying to reshape welfare programs, particularly with drug testing.

ALASKA: "Skipping the scalpel, Walker takes ax to Alaska capital budget"

ARIZONA: From the Arizona Republic: “The results of the ballot recount are expected to be announced Dec. 17. Going into the recount, McSally led by 161 votes.”

D.C.: The Maryland lawmaker who pushed to restrict D.C.'s pot legalization is persona non grata at some downtown businesses, writes The Hill.

ILLINOIS: A handful of Democrats are eyeing a run against Sen. Mark Kirk, writes Roll Call.

IOWA: The Des Moines Register writes that the Ames Straw Poll is "likely to live on almost as-is" despite criticism.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Eriq Gardner, Senior Editor for the Hollywood Reporter, on the Sony hacking; Arienne Thompson from USA Today on Camille Cosby speaking out; Dana Canedy from the NYTimes on her article "The Talk: After Ferguson, a Shaded Conversation About Race"; and Otis Williams from “The Temptations” and Abdul Fakir from “The Four Tops.”

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviewsSen. Joe Manchin, IAVA President Paul Reickhoff, Fmr. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs , NBC’s Richard Engel, Sara James and Amna Nawaz, and Keir Simmons kicks off a series of special reports on “Faces of War”, how children are being affected by the civil war in Syria.